How one small action by a government official you may not be familiar with just led to a noteworthy development in the 2020 presidential race.
What Is USGSA?
U.S. General Services Administration
Think of this agency like a huge office manager for the federal government, with oversight over real estate, office space, technology and supplies.
An important function: “ascertain” (not name or choose) who the next administration will be and facilitate the transition to a new team.
- The head of the GSA, Emily Murphy, did not “ascertain” the presidency was won by fmr. VP Joe Biden when media outlets initially called the race based on state results.
- Many, incl. Republican & Democrat lawmakers, pressured her to do so based on preliminary election results.
- Nov. 23: Murphy announced “based on the law and available facts” that VP Biden is the “apparent winner.”
“…in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”
Pres. Trump on the announcement by the GSA administrator. The GSA does not need approval from the U.S. President to begin the early process of a transition to a new administration; the power to do so belongs to the GSA under federal law. The Electoral College will *officially* vote for Pres. on Dec. 14th.
Why This Matters:
Practically: This development by the GSA releases $6+ million to the Biden transition team to hire staff members and start preparing their new administration.
Symbolically: This is the first “nod” from the Trump administration that VP Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 election.
On this day, Michigan certified its election results, declaring VP Joe Biden the winner. VP Biden has begun announcing team members he intends to nominate, including high-profile members of his cabinet. While Pres. Trump voiced his support for the GSA, he has yet to officially concede.
Here’s the official mission of the GSA: CLICK HERE
Here’s what the GSA does: CLICK HERE
Here’s background on the GSA role in a Presidential transition: CLICK HERE
Here’s a good overview of the GSA’s decision to ascertain a winner: CLICK HERE
Here’s the letter from the GSA administrator:
November 23, 2020
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Mr. Biden:
As the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, I have the ability under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended, to make certain post-election resources and services available to assist in the event of a presidential transition. See 3 U.S.C. § 102 note (the “Act”). I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you.
I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination. I did, however, receive threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.
Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect. Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts. GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified. These are issues that the Constitution, federal laws, and state laws leave to the election certification process and decisions by courts of competent jurisdiction. I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.
As you know, the GSA Administrator does not pick or certify the winner of a presidential election. Instead, the GSA Administrator’s role under the Act is extremely narrow: to make resources and services available in connection with a presidential transition. As stated, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, I have determined that you may access the post-election resources and services described in Section 3 of the Act upon request. The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.
Section 7 of the Act and Public Law 116-159, dated October 1, 2020, which provides continuing appropriations until December 11, 2020, makes $6,300,000 available to you to carry out the provisions of Section 3 of the Act. In addition, $1,000,000 is authorized, pursuant to Public Law 116-159, to provide appointee orientation sessions and a transition directory. I remind you that Section 6 of the Act imposes reporting requirements on you as a condition for receiving services and funds from GSA.
If there is anything we can do to assist you, please contact Ms. Mary D. Gibert, the Federal Transition Coordinator.
Emily W. Murphy
U.S. General Services Administration
by Jenna Lee,